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I'll Take Fifth Avenue, Too

Take advantage of the recession and snap up a Fifth Avenue apartment in New York. That's a common goal among many high net-worth individuals, especially during the past year.
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By Wei Min Tan of Castle Avenue Partners

Take advantage of the recession, and snap up a Fifth Avenue apartment in New York. That's a common goal among many of our high net-worth clients, especially during the past year. So what is Fifth Avenue and why is it so coveted?

Fifth Avenue in Manhattan stretches from Washington Square Park to 142nd Street. The high-end retail stores --



Louis Vuitton






-- line Fifth Avenue between 49th and 60th Streets. At 60th Street, there's a flagship


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store, an

FAO Schwarz

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toy store, and across from it, on the west side of Fifth Avenue,

The Plaza


The Trump Tower, made famous in

The Apprentice

on NBC, is on this stretch as well.

CB Richard Ellis

, in a report released Friday, says that New York remains the most expensive retail space in the world, at $1,725 a square foot. The Big Apple is followed by Sydney, Hong Kong and London.

Fifth Avenue combines the best of city, country (Central Park) and culture. It can feel like Paris at night because of how quiet it becomes. The most prestigious section of Fifth Avenue is the stretch facing Central Park on the Upper East Side. Within this section, the ones facing the Central Park reservoir are perhaps the most expensive.

In the late 19th and 20th centuries, mansions were built for the Astors, Vanderbilts, Post, Hutton and Carnegie. The Andrew Carnegie house at 2 East 91 St. was converted to the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

Apartment-living only became acceptable for the wealthy after 1910. That was when architects like Roasario Candela, Emery Roth and James Carpenter built grand apartments on Fifth Avenue. Those apartments feature high ceilings, fireplaces, grand stairways and huge rooms.

820 Fifth Ave. in New York

Most apartments on Fifth Avenue are pre-war co-ops. The most notable is perhaps 820 Fifth Ave., which has only 12 floors with one apartment per floor --probably one of the grandest addresses in the world. The most recent transaction was the 12th floor, which sold for $40 million in 2009. To be a resident at one of these ultra prestigious buildings often requires an all-cash purchase, social and business references, and even liquid assets upwards of $100 million.

Within the past few years, new condo buildings were built on Fifth Avenue in the 1930s and 1940s, including 425 Fifth Ave. Designed by Michael Graves, 425 Fifth currently starts at $700,000 for a studio and goes up to $2.5 million for a high-floor, two-bedroom apartment.

Trump Tower,

The Apprentice

building on 56 Street and Fifth Avenue, ranges from $2.4 million for a one-bedroom apartment to $13.5 million for a three-bedroom apartment.

Having a Fifth Avenue apartment is definitely a badge of pride. It doesn't have to be a Candela building or one facing Central Park, because outside of the Manhattan high- end broker or elite circle, I doubt people would know the extra exclusivity.

International clients ask for Fifth Avenue apartments because in most elite societies around the world, people will know the address and associate it with accomplishment, prestige and wealth.

Wei Min, CEO of Castle Avenue Partners, is a real estate entrepreneur focused on brokerage, investments and management. Previously, Wei Min was VP at Citigroup responsible for a $500 million portfolio. He received Citigroup's prestigious Chairman's Award, a recognition awarded to the top 2% of managers. He was also Director of Travel Insurance at American Express where he managed a $180 million portfolio. Wei Min's first exposure to real estate was in 1998, when he helped develop mortgage strategies at Citimortgage. He has traveled to many cities to view thousands of properties. In addition to English, he speaks Cantonese, Malay and is conversant in Mandarin. He is a runner who frequently races at 10K and half marathon distance events. Wei Min holds a black belt in tae kwon do and works out at the gym almost everyday. He graduated with an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BBA from Marshall University. He can be reached at